Cali Slump: All three NHL teams at Golden State are rebuilding


By Josh Dubow

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – What just a few years ago was the most dangerous part of the NHL schedule for many teams has turned into a bit of a break lately.

The days of being led by the physical and overwhelming teams of San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles are long gone. The stars on these teams either slowed down with age or moved to other places.

All are retooling after consecutive seasons where all three California teams missed the playoffs.

“We knew that type of phase was coming at some point in this phase of our trip,” said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. “We had a pretty good race for a long time. We had to rebuild our system.

It’s a similar pattern in Southern California, where the Ducks and Kings face the same process. It’s just a little shocking that this is happening at the same time considering the success of these franchises.

Since Anaheim entered the NHL in the 1993-94 season, there had been only one season (1995-96) where neither of the California teams had made the playoffs until the last two seasons. .

The Sharks have missed the playoffs in consecutive years for the third time in franchise history. The Ducks tied the franchise’s worst playoff drought in three years, and the Kings also missed three in a row.

It comes after a streak between 2003 – when the Ducks reached their first Stanley Cup final – and 2019, when the Sharks lost to St. Louis in the Western Conference Final, one of three. Californian teams made it to the conference finals. in 13 of the 16 seasons.

In a 10-year span since 2008-18, which was the last time all three teams made the playoffs in the same season, California teams have won 65.6% of possible points in their home games, which allowed the Eastern Conference teams to play. the three Californian squads successively more treacherous than the Bermuda Triangle.

The race began in 2003 when Anaheim lost to New Jersey in the Stanley Cup Final. The Ducks went on to win the whole thing four years later for the first California Cup title on one of their five or better trips to the conference finals during that span, led by stars like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer.

The Kings have won everything twice during that span, with Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Jonathan Quick helping them exit the Cup in 2012 and 2014, while losing the conference final the following year.

The Sharks were the most consistent of the three teams, led by players like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski, but never won the ultimate prize, losing to Pittsburgh in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final and four other times. at the conference final.

Most of these players are long gone or past their prime, leaving these teams to wait for new stars to arrive and pave the way for success.

“We knew there would come a time when the Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski era would be over,” Wilson said. “We must reconstitute. We have gone many, many years without rebuilding our system, using picks to add or players to compete for. “

The Ducks and Kings have had similar stretches, as the focus on “win now” came at the cost of draft picks and prospects that all three franchises still pay. It will take time to overcome years of neglect of the farming system and all three seem to be heading into this season with the idea that just making the playoffs could be seen as a success.

“The word playoff should be used in every locker room right now, but we need to improve before we declare ourselves ready for the playoffs,” said Kings coach Todd McLellan, who led the Sharks to two appearances in conference finals in 2010 and 2011. “Are we capable of it? I think we have the right players to do it, but can we ramp up our game fast enough and maintain it long enough throughout the season to compete for it? We will find out as we go. One step at a time for this group.

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